Midnight in Paris (2011)
Dir. Woody Allen
originally posted to Facebook on 6/8/11
3 out of 5
About 20 minutes into Woody Allen's new bookworm fantasy Midnight in Paris, when a character notes that aspiring novelist-cum-Hollywood hack Gil (Owen Wilson) looks a little vacant behind the eyes, I couldn't help but think about its particular resonance for Wilson himself. His personal struggles aside, is there anyone who believes now that he will ever recapture the goofy/soulful mojo he displayed in The Royal Tenenbaums or The Life Aquatic or - why the hell not - Zoolander? Well, in Paris Wilson seems hell-bent on showing us how he's overcoming his career ennui with a equally lethal dose of enthusiasm, continually starstruck by the artistic luminaries of 1920s Paris who he encounters after stepping into a magic Packard at the stroke of 12 every night.
Wilson is the latest Allen surrogate, cuckolded by a shrewish fiance (Rachel McAdams) and her hoity-toity parents on a business trip to the City of Lights. He wants to quit churning out box office chum and find a publisher for his novel. She wants to ensure that she can still drop 20 grand on a handmade porch chair once they're hitched. His trips into the past only affirm how little he is enjoying the present. However, I wouldn't think that rubbing shoulders with the likes of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Picasso would do much to dispel anybody's intellectual insecurities.
Midnight in Paris has a cute idea. It also has fun bursting nostalgic bubbles and the idea of returning to a mythic "golden age" where we didn't have to put up with the quotidian nonsense that makes up the 98 percent of our lives, and could really focus on wringing out that remaining 2 percent of truth and beauty. I'm simpatico with Allen in theory, but I can't fully embrace the movie when most of its characters lack depth. McAdams is nothing more than a straw woman created to make Wilson's indecisiveness feel more like oppression. The famous writers and artists are best described as entertaining caricatures, and they are met by Wilson with the same sort of overexcited reverence seen in the history report at the end of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. But, dudes, at least he's enjoying the ride again.